Restless legs syndrome: an overview of the current understanding and management

Acta Neurol Scand. 2004 May;109(5):303-17. doi: 10.1111/j.1600-0404.2004.00269.x.


Over the last few years, major progress in research has improved our understanding of the restless legs syndrome (RLS). Although frequently under-diagnosed, several epidemiological studies have estimated its prevalence in western countries at 4-10% of the general population. Its diagnosis is usually made on a clinical basis, according to the criteria established by the International RLS Study Group (Mov Disord 1995; 10:634). Furthermore, major advances have also been achieved regarding our understanding of the pathophysiology of the disorder. Thus, several brain imaging studies, as well as pharmacological challenges, suggest the presence of a dopaminergic dysfunction playing a major role in its causation. In addition, a strong association has been discovered between brain iron deficiency and RLS. Eventually, dopaminergic drugs have shown therapeutic efficacy in various large-scale therapeutic trials, and, today, dopaminergic agonists represent the first line of treatment. In conclusion, these and other recent findings shed light on our understanding and management of one of the most common movement disorders.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Anemia, Iron-Deficiency / diagnosis
  • Anemia, Iron-Deficiency / drug therapy
  • Anemia, Iron-Deficiency / epidemiology
  • Anemia, Iron-Deficiency / physiopathology
  • Brain / drug effects
  • Brain / physiopathology
  • Cross-Sectional Studies
  • Diagnosis, Differential
  • Diagnostic Imaging
  • Dopamine / physiology
  • Dopamine Agents / therapeutic use
  • Humans
  • Restless Legs Syndrome / drug therapy
  • Restless Legs Syndrome / epidemiology
  • Restless Legs Syndrome / etiology*
  • Restless Legs Syndrome / physiopathology


  • Dopamine Agents
  • Dopamine